Caroline Glick

Ten years ago, in the shadow of the crater at Ground Zero, the smoldering Pentagon and a field of honor in Pennsylvania, America found itself at war.

Today, a decade on, America is still at war.

Ten years after the September 11, 2001, attacks, the time has come to assess the progress of America's war. But to assess its progress, we must first understand the war.

What war has the US been fighting since September 11?

President George W. Bush called the war the War on Terror. The War on Terror is a broad tactical campaign to prevent Islamic terrorists from targeting America.

The War on Terror has achieved some notable successes. These include Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan which denied al-Qaida free rein in Afghanistan by overthrowing the Taliban.

They also include the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and his fascist regime in Iraq, which played a role - albeit far less significant than the Taliban regime and others - in supporting Islamic terrorism against the US.

Moreover, the US has successfully prevented multiple attempts by Islamic terrorists to carry out additional mass terror attacks on US territory.

This achievement, however, is at least partially a function of luck. On two occasions - the Shoe Bomber in 2001 and the Underwear Bomber in 2009 - Islamic terrorists with bombs were able to board airplanes en route to the US and attempt to detonate those bombs in mid-air. The fact that their attacks were foiled by their fellow passengers is a tribute to the passengers, not to the success of the US war effort.

The US's success in killing Osama bin Laden and other senior al-Qaida members is another clear achievement of this war.

But 10 years on, the fact that Islamic terrorism directed against the US remains a salient threat to US national security shows that the War on Terror is far from won.

And this makes sense. Despite its significant successes, the War on Terror suffers from three inherent problems that make it impossible for the US to win.

The first problem is that the US has unevenly applied its tactic of denying terrorists free rein in territory of their choosing. In his historic speech before the Joint Houses of Congress on September 20, 2001, Bush pledged, "We will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime."


Caroline Glick

Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.

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